Turkish artist Sayat Uşaklıgil brings some of Hollywood’s unforgettable figures, from Elizabeth Taylor to Sophia Loren and from Marilyn Monroe to Jane Fonda, to İstanbul in his exhibition “Yıldızlar Geçidi” (Star Parade), currently on display at Artgalerim in İstanbul’s Nişantaşı quarter.
The collection’s starting point can be traced back to Uşaklıgil’s childhood years, from the late 1970s to the mid ‘80s. “I was born in 1975, when there was of course no Internet. Turkish [state] TV had only one station, and there used to be long queues in front of cinemas and theaters. Cinema and comic books constituted the only entertainment for us,” recalled Uşaklıgil in an interview with Today’s Zaman. “I used to go to a movie every week, and sometimes I even used to see three movies back-to-back. Going to the movies was like a ritual for us. The walls of my bedroom were covered with pictures I used to draw based on movie posters and comic strips.”
For Uşaklıgil, the works in the exhibition stand as a kind of “professional continuation” of his childhood passion for movies. “I know it looks at first glance like a popular [Pop Art-oriented] exhibition in terms of its theme, but in truth, it is composed largely of nostalgic elements,” the artist said.
Defining himself as “a knowledgeable moviegoer,” Uşaklıgil’s focus in the exhibition is wide, depicting actors and characters from several genres, from horror to action flicks and James Bond movies. Depictions of actresses and heroines from Hollywood cinema dominate the exhibition. “I did not include European or Iranian films, because there is a vast [spectrum of] genres that cannot be covered in one exhibition. Besides, almost everyone has been familiar with Hollywood films since childhood.”
The paintings in the show do not entirely resemble movie posters, but they reflect the artist’s imagination blended with memories from his childhood. Uşaklıgil said, in a way, he redesigned the movie posters. “My paintings look more like movie posters rather than paintings. You can assume that everything has been redesigned from the very beginning. And to do this, I picked the best-known and most remarkable scenes of well-known movies,” he explained.
Uşaklıgil also dedicated a corner of the exhibition space to his love for music. In line with his choice of films, the musicians Uşaklıgil portrays in this section are also nostalgic figures from several musical genres. “My personal archive of music is mostly made up of European music. The younger generations [of music lovers in Turkey] are not very familiar with them, I suppose. But when I was young, these [songs] used to play in our house, and I grew up listening to them,” he added.
Yet, in spite of his love and passion for cinema, Uşaklıgil said he does not intend to continue working on the same theme. “I love nostalgia, but I don’t like being stuck in only one [concept] or clinging to the past. … Some painters work on the same concepts, same themes for years, but I don’t. I think there is no use in working on the same themes and in the same style [for years]. Artists must reinvent themselves. But unfortunately, many prefer to continue doing the same thing for years.”
Sayat Uşaklıgil’s “Yıldızlar Geçidi” is on display until Feb. 5 at Artgalerim, located at Valikonağı Street No. 63 in Nişantaşı.